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How to Choose a Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb

Compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs, use about 75% less energy, give off 90% less heat, and last up to ten times longer than old-fashioned incandescents. Changing over is as easy as… well, screwing in a light bulb.


  • Step 1: Examine old bulbs Examine your old bulbs. Note their wattage and color.
  • Step 2: Note light fixture details Note the size, shape, and location of your light fixtures.
  • TIP: Take special care to measure enclosed light fixtures to be sure that larger CFLs will fit.
  • Step 3: Calculate CFL watts Calculate how many watts your new compact fluorescent bulbs should have. CFLs use about a quarter of the energy to produce the same light, so replace your old bulbs with fluorescents with one quarter the watts.
  • Step 4: Look for Energy Star label Look for CFLs that are marked with the government rated Energy Star label, indicating that they’re the most efficient bulbs.
  • Step 5: Note color of light Note the color of light the new bulbs produce, and choose ones that produce the right amount and color of light for your fixture.
  • TIP: For a CFL bulb that produces soft white light like an incandescent, look for a correlated color temperature (CCT) rating of 2650 to 3200 and a color rendering index (CRI) of 80 or above.
  • Step 6: Check size & shape of bulb Compact fluorescents are a bit larger than the old bulbs, so refer to any measurements you took of your fixture to make sure the size and shape of the bulb will work.
  • Step 7: Dispose of bulbs properly Dispose of your fluorescent bulbs properly at the end of their very long life. The tiny amount of mercury inside them should be recycled, not tossed in a landfill.
  • FACT: If every household in America replaced just three incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents, it would be as good for the environment as taking 3.5 million cars off the road.

You Will Need

  • A store or online retailer that sells compact fluorescent light bulbs

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